My toddler and I went grocery shopping tonight. I dressed him up in non-matching socks (his choice) and a dinosaur onesie before heading to pick out some clothes for myself. He trailed along behind me as I grabbed one of my favorite blue sweaters and an ankle-length skirt. It was an outfit that screamed “I used to be a homeschooler” but it was comfortable and I didn’t figure we’d be seeing anyone we knew anyways. I knew it would hide the bloating from my body trying to adjust to eating again after vomiting for a couple of days straight.
As I slipped it on, I realized I still hadn’t really gained any weight since falling ill last week. I had gained two or three pounds, but when I woke up this morning and weighed, I was back to a pound above my lowest weight since I got sick. I tugged at the sleeves, pulling them down as I took in how baggy it looked on me now. I told myself that at least I didn’t lose enough to be back in little girl size clothing.
When we got in the car I buckled my son up in his carseat and gave him a book to read while I drove. He was quiet and the silence gave way to me remembering all of the times I chose clothing for the sole purpose of hiding my body. Sometimes, it was so I’d be “modest” or so I wouldn’t tempt the boy I liked (and perhaps earn his respect). Other times it was to hide the fact that over 20 pounds of weight had been dropped in a short amount of time. I used “modest“, oversized clothes to conceal the secret that I was starving myself.
This illness, though it was short, has brought up so many painful memories and emotions. I didn’t develop anorexia overnight, and it certainly didn’t develop on its own. Sometimes I wonder if it never would have surfaced at all, had it not been for a few people and things said. I don’t think it developed from some sort of chemical imbalance in my brain. It developed because I was taught to be anorexic.
I looked down at my hands as I drove and saw the cracks already forming in my skin from the cold weather. It is only November, but they already have been bloody and itchy from being so dry. When I was younger, someone told me that the boy I liked would think I was gross because I had “crocodile hands” since I wouldn’t put lotion on them. It is especially noticeable now that they are so bony from the weight loss and every time we get in the car I tell my husband that story. It runs on autopilot in my brain when I touch the steering wheel and I forget I’ve told him the story before. By the end, I always feel like crying, because I know that it will be like this for me forever. My hands can be fixed by lotion, but the rest of my body can’t be.
Memory after memory comes back to me when I’m at this weight, and no matter how much and how often I eat right now, I can’t gain it back fast enough. I feel like I’m racing against time and my body to heal myself before my body decides it is time to relapse. I feel like any glance in the mirror could be the one where my brain says, “You look better this way!”
It makes me sad for my younger self and angry for the present. I shouldn’t have to worry or wonder if my brain might turn on me, but because some people decided nothing about me was good enough for them, this is my reality. They’ll never deal with the consequences of their actions and words, but for me, what they have said and done will last for as long as I live.
Every time I take off my shirt to shower or change, I remember all the times I was told I was too short and chubby to be pretty. Every time I see my legs this thin, I remember the feeling of not being able to move or breath because I hadn’t eaten more than 300 calories a day for weeks. Every time I walk by a mirror and see that my face has thinned out or another chunk of hair is thinning and falling out, I remember the time I was told I needed to watch what I ate because I didn’t have a thigh gap (since then, I’ve made sure I always have one). Every morning I wake up and wonder how long it will be until my fingers have enough meat on them to keep me from having to check my rings all the time to make sure they haven’t fallen off and remember the rings I did lose when I was anorexic because my fingers were too thin to keep any on. Every time I look down at my nails and see they are in the same poor state they were five years ago after only a few days of poor nutrition, it is shocking and I fear for the health effects that aren’t seen so obviously, like my bones.
Every time I see my hip bones and ribs so clearly visible, I get sent back to a moment at a lake when I watched my friends splash in the water as I sat in the sand in my “modest” swim dress, my whole body shaking as the sun hit my skin and I felt like I was freezing to death. I remember the mother of one of my friends fretting over me, telling me that one slice of pizza wouldn’t kill me as my best friend and the boy I liked tried to feed it to me. Another time they tried to feed me chips, suffering through my snippy attitude and callousness to try to help me as I spiraled out of control.
Those memories with my friends, above all the others, are the ones that make me cry. Because in everything that happened and that was said to me, they were the ones that tried desperately to take care of me, even when I was cranky with them. They didn’t care what I weighed. They loved me enough to want me around no matter what the scale said. They didn’t put my worth in what I looked like, and for that, I will be eternally grateful to them.
I remember the time one of my peers asked me how much I weighed and compared me to her. We weighed the same, but she was taller. It didn’t matter much to me at the time, but combined with other things that had been and would be said to me, it was the perfect storm.
My waist wasn’t right. My legs were too short. My hair was too wavy. My eyes were too plain. I was too fat. I had too many freckles. My skin was a “pizza pit“. I need to watch what I ate. I need to go on a diet. I needed to exercise more. I needed to whiten my teeth. I needed to bleach my mustache. I constantly heard, “You are eating all that?”My butt was too big. I wasn’t an hourglass figure. My boobs were too small. I needed to get some medication to make me pretty. I might need to get plastic surgery someday…
Then I was too thin. Then I needed a milkshake and a cheeseburger. Then my butt was too flat. Then I was too petite. Then I was a skinny b!tch. Then I was told I shouldn’t worry so much. Then I was a “twig”. Then my hair was too short and brittle. Then I looked sick. Then I heard “That’s all you are eating?” Then people said I wasn’t a “real women” anymore because I had a thigh gap. Then everything was worse that it had been before because nothing had changed except me.
I wasn’t enough.
Now I get to remember everything as I try to recover from a minor illness that most people would already be better from by now.
Now I get to deal with the consequences of other people’s words and actions by feeling ashamed of hiding my frame the same way I did so many years ago, but this time, the weight loss wasn’t my fault. It makes me angry that I am ashamed of something that wasn’t my fault. It makes me furious that I, as a child, learned how to hide my body and my weight. It isn’t a good life skill, it is a disgrace.
I’m just hoping and praying I gain back the weight before my mind decides it wants me to look like this. I don’t ever want to be this thin again.
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